DOJ watchdog opens review of opioid enforcement

DOJ watchdog opens review of opioid enforcement

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) internal watchdog is reviewing whether the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is doing enough to clamp down on illegal opioid distribution. 

On Thursday, the new review was posted to the “ongoing work” section of the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General’s website — an action that won praise from the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which had requested the investigation

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In a press release, Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillMcCaskill attended reception at Russian ambassador's residence in 2015 Senators question need for HHS cyber office Overnight Cybersecurity: Obama DHS chief defends Russian hack response | Trump huddles on grid security | Lawmakers warned about cyber threat to election systems MORE (D-Mo.) said she had “serious concerns that enforcement actions against opioid distributors have amounted to a slap on the wrist” and that “if there’s clear evidence that distributors or manufacturers have acted illegally there needs to be every effort to hold them fully accountable.” 

Specifically, the DOJ’s watchdog is assessing whether or not the DEA’s regulatory activities and enforcement actions “effectively prevent” opioids from getting into the wrong hands. 

The moves comes as the nation faces an opioid epidemic, with parts of the country suffering a dramatic increase in overdose deaths from prescription painkillers and heroin. 

In October, The Washington Post reported that, about a decade ago, the DEA began to crack down on wholesale companies distributing opioids to pharmacies and pill mills illegally selling the drugs, but that DEA officials later began to block and delay enforcement actions. 

At the time, the DEA declined to discuss the charge, telling the newspaper that it combats “the opioid crisis in many ways: criminally, civilly, administratively, and through robust demand reduction efforts.”